Our House-sitting journey all started back on a cold and dreary winter Sunday in London back in January of 2010.
I was clicking through the travel section in the Guardian, dreaming of sunnier climates. Dani was huddled up under a blanket drinking green tea when I let out a slow, surprised, hopeful
What had started with a passing interest in an article titled “Make Yourself at Home with a Spot of House-sitting” got interesting very quickly when I read how, looking to escape Britain for the winter months, the journalist needed a quiet space to write, while her musician boyfriend needed a place to play his music.
They discovered a house-sitting opportunity caring for a bed and breakfast in Italy and as I read their story, it became clear that we could do the same thing.
Dani and I were both freelancing at the time, working from our living room.
Why couldn’t we be in another country, I thought.
Right there, the seed was planted and Dani signed us up for the house-sitting website mentioned in the article, Housecarers.com.
One month later, in February 2010, we decided to pack up our London apartment and take our work on the road, and though we do not house-sit exclusively while we travel, we had our first one lined up as the plane touched down in the US from London.
We would be staying in a Hollywood apartment, owned by a fellow travel contact I knew (but not well), caring for her seven rescue cats while she spent a week in New York on business. We new we had to seize the opportunity to live, rent free, in a gorgeous L.A. neighbourhood.
That first one worked out quite serendipitously, as I had just mentioned we would be in LA in an email and she asked us to house-sit.
However, the next one came after sending off quite a few applications on Housecarers.
We had been planning a road trip up through California and then across the Southwestern U.S. and applied to all ads in our path that summer. We were accepted for one in Tucson, Arizona and spent a month there caring for a fantastic dog.
Almost three years later, Dani and I have had 12 house-sits across four continents, including our own experience house and cat sitting at our own romantic Bed and Breakfast in Tuscany in 2011, just like that dream housesit mentioned in the Guardian article.
It felt like everything had come full circle from the first time we had heard about house-sitting on that cold London morning.
House-sitting is a perfect option for anyone interested in long term travel, but can also work well for travelers looking to just spend a week or two away.
You live rent free in exchange for keeping someone’s home and pets safe, but more importantly, house-sitting allows you to have authentic travel experiences in ways that more traditional accommodation such as hotels and hostels just can’t provide.
Although more and more people start housesitting every year, the movement itself is still rather underground.
But this is such an amazing way to see the world, save money and have the kind of real, authentic travel experiences that so many of us are looking for.
Getting Started House-sitting
If house-sitting sounds like it is right up your alley, signing up to a couple of housesitting websites is easy enough for anyone.
Just because you pay the membership fee (usually around $50 or less per year), doesn’t mean you are guaranteed a housesit.
Things that hold some people back from being successful with house-sitting are:
- lack of experience
- poorly written applications
- and applying too late
Our advice is to start by telling friends and relatives of your interest in housesitting.
Agreeing to care for your aunt’s house, or dog-sit for a friend of a friend while they go away for the weekend is not only a great way to lock down a credible housesitting / pet-sitting references, but also to find out if it is even for you in the first place.
Sticking within your own circle of personal contacts might be something you have success with, but looking for housesits online opens up the possibility of housesitting in another city or even another country, possibly on the other side of the world.
Where to Find Housesits Online
You can use Facebook to spread the word about your desire to housesit, and sites like Craigslist have loads of opportunities, too.
However, Craigslist is not popular in every country, which does limit your options and building trust through a site that isn’t dedicated to housesitting is a bit more of a risk than we personally
like to take when agreeing to live in someone’s home and be responsible for their house and pets.
We have found plenty of success across several of the over 20 dedicated housesitting websites and can highly recommend signing up and creating a profile on at least a few different sites, in order to catch more opportunities that might fit your schedule and your desired travel destinations.
Housecarers.com is one of the original sites connecting homeowners to housesitters, and has the most variety and the most global reach. Housecarers is probably the best site out there for the more exotic, remote locations and also for anyone looking to housesit in Australia.
The fastest growing housesitting community is TrustedHousesitters.com, which was founded only a couple of years ago by two Brits who are avid housesitters themselves.
Although the site is currently strongest for sits in Britain and Europe,homeowners from around the world are starting to sign up to this site in droves and the company is looking to make a push toward growing the movement in South America in the coming year, and we actually found our current housesit – looking after two adorable Scottie dogs for seven weeks in a luxurious condo inSantiago de Chile – on TrustedHousesitters.
MindMyHouse.com rounds out our top three most popular housesitting websites. This is an easy to use site with homeowners around the globe advertising their homes here, and we have successfully scored housesitting gigs in Germany, Malaysia and Italy on this site.
There are loads of housesits in Europe, but also great opportunities in the rest of the world, in places like Costa Rica, Canada or Argentina.
Before You Even Apply
Seeing a month long housesit in Fiji, or a summer in the French countryside might make you squeal with delight, but there are a few things to consider before you take the time to apply.
What is the weather like?
Is it hurricane or typhoon season where you would be living? Even if the weather is fine, is it low season?
Staying in a tourist destination like on a Costa Rican beach might seem like a dream, but if it is right in the middle of low season, there may not be many people around, even locals. Are you comfortable with many closed restaurants and quite a bit of solitude?
Next, consider visa regulations?
How long do you have on a tourist visa to that country? For Europeans / Australians / Kiwis traveling to the U.S. and Americans to any of those areas, a tourist visa is 90 days within any 180 day period, meaning you would not be able to accept a housesit longer than 3 months.
In Mexico, tourists can get up to a six-month tourist visa, and Central America and South East Asia have easy options for border runs, meaning you can leave the country and return the next day on a brand new visa. Check this out online to have a rough idea before you apply.
Check out the cost of airfare or transportation during the month of the housesit.
Flights to Fiji might be affordable if you will be coming from Australia or New Zealand, but if you live in Denver and would be traveling in high season, does paying the price of the plane ticket make economical sense in return for the housesit?
Apply strong, Apply early
After you sign up and create a profile, you will need to keep tabs on new housesitting opportunities in order to be one of the first to apply.
Select which regions or countries you would like to housesit in and opt to get email alerts to
be notified when a homeowner creates an ad for those regions.
Homeowners receive anywhere from five to over 100 applications depending on the location of
the sit and the level of responsibility involved, so the earlier you apply, the more chance you have to make a lasting impression and preferably be chosen to do the housesit.
Even if you have previous housesitting experience, there are still always more available housesitters than housesits, which means you might have to apply for several housesits before being chosen for one that works for both you and the homeowners.
This Is Not About You
When you apply for a housesit, make sure to read that homeowner’s advert carefully and then address how your experience and skills matches the needs and responsibilities for a housesit.
Of course you will be providing personal information, homeowners need to be sure that they can trust their house and their pets – essentially their entire life – with you while they are gone.
Showing them why you are a good fit for their needs is going to put you one giant leap ahead of the competition.
Having experience is not necessarily what makes you get chosen.
Unlike job applications, house-sitting is extremely personal. Homeowners are likely to go more with their gut feeling about an application, so making a personal connection using information from their advert really helps.
In our post Dream housesits around the world, we highlighted two first-time housesitters who were able to score dream housesits in Thailand and in Costa Rica right out of the gate.
If you have a family, don’t be discouraged. Housesitting with your family is also possible! In that very same post, we feature two families who landed exciting housesits in Morocco and on a tropical island in Malaysia.
Dani and Jess are a German-American couple who left their adopted home of London and set off to travel the world in 2010. With the motto ‘Two Girls. One Globe. No Regrets’ they have since traveled through Europe, South East Asia, and the Americas while running their travel website GlobetrotterGirls.com. The girls are digital nomads, street food junkies, LGBT travelers, hotel enthusiasts, street art lovers, vegetarians, avid housesitters and can easily be reached on Facebook and Twitter.